Trust, Estate and Long-Term Care Planning When a Spouse Becomes Disabled

Laura K. Meier
Creating estate, business, and life plans that ensure a family’s complete protection and well-being.

If your spouse receives a diagnosis from a doctor that they have dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke or any other long- term diagnoses, it is time to change your estate plan.

Even though your current estate plan is still valid and has not expired, it typically only serves as a death plan, and not as a long-term care plan.  You will need an estate plan that fully addresses your spouse’s new health care needs and the associated costs.

With monthly care costs at over $9,000, too many families lose everything paying for a loved one’s care. You are probably already asking yourself “Who will take care of my spouse if I am gone? Are we going to lose everything we worked so hard for? My children may be fine, but I really wanted to leave them something! I love my spouse but am I going to be a caregiver for the rest of my life? Will my own health care withstand the stress?”

Checking in with your family trust lawyer who helped you prepare your original plan seems like a logical first step, but most family trust lawyers only set up traditional estate plans. These lawyers don’t understand the ins and outs of protecting the family assets from being drained when it comes to paying for a loved one’s long-term care.

Fortunately, we can help. We are California Family Trust and Elder Law Attorneys and set up both traditional estate plans and long term-care estate plans.

So here is how it typically works for the families we help, and what you can expect. First, we meet with you to find out more about your spouse’s situation and what their care is costing.  Then, we evaluate what financial resources you have available to fund their care, and assess what you need to live comfortably.

If we determine it’s likely that most or all of your assets will be depleted on funding your spouse’s care, we can look to additional financial resources such as the VA Benefit or Medi-Cal to help supplement your spouse’s care costs, so it’s not all on you.

The VA Benefit and Medi-Cal are government benefits that can provide additional funding for your spouse’s long term care costs. However, most people won’t qualify to receive these benefits unless they have already depleted all of the family assets, or had little money to begin with.  

This is a huge problem because once your family is broke, you really are out of options. That’s why it’s ideal if we can use the VA Benefit and Medi-Cal to help financially supplement your spouse’s care before all your assets are spent down, so your assets can be a supplemental source of funding, rather than the sole source of funding. This way you’ll also have money left for your own living expenses.

Now most people think the VA Benefit and Medi-Cal are only available to people who have already lost everything paying for care, or had little assets to begin with.  But this isn’t true. The VA Benefit and Medi-Cal programs have exceptions to their income and asset rules that allow us to transfer your assets to a long term care estate plan which they won’t count as a resource when you apply for these benefits.

Here are some of our legal techniques we will use for a long-term care estate plan:

  • A spousal bypass plan.​
  • An asset protection trust specifically designed for benefits.​
  • A realignment of assets so that you may qualify for benefits sooner, rather than later.​
  • Special needs trusts that do not require a government payback.​
  • Care contracts​
  • Life estate uses​
  • Other appropriate financial or legal vehicles that have your best interest at heart.

To ensure your spouse will get quality care without draining all of the family assets, it’s critical you speak with your California Family Trust and Elder Law attorneys as soon as possible.  The sooner you talk with us, the more money we can save you.

We warmly invite you to call Bonnie Johnson at the Meier Law Firm at (949) 718-0420 to help you get the direction and answers you need.

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